POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Donald Trump vs Joe Biden on Colorado issues: Where the presidential candidates stand

A breakdown of where the candidates stand on health care, marijuana, education, public lands issues and other major policies



 

Joe Biden

 

Joe Biden

Former Vice President and U.S. Senator

 


 

Background: 

Back in the spring, Gov. Jared Polis leveraged a number of federal channels in pursuit of life-saving ventilators but came up empty. Sen. Cory Gardner says he called Trump, and Colorado received 100 ventilators the next day. Either candidate, if elected to the presidency, will likely be inaugurated amid a still-raging pandemic that could spiral into hundreds of thousands of more deaths. Experts and critics have blasted the Trump administration for failing to properly distribute life-saving medical equipment to the states.

 

Would give more responsibility to federal government

A: He attributes the lack of adequate coronavirus testing to shortcomings in the federal response to the virus. His campaign website says a Biden administration would “take responsibility” for distributing personal protective equipment to states. He called on Trump to set up a pandemic testing board to coordinate distribution of tests to states and appoint a supply commander to coordinate the distribution of essential medical equipment to states. Biden also has called on every governor to mandate mask-wearing.
Biden in a September speech released his own plan for distributing the vaccine. He said, “If I’m elected president, I’ll begin by implementing an effective distribution plan from the minute I take office.” His plan includes a timeline, prioritization policies and shipping and storage mechanisms.

 

Q:

HEALTH CARE PLAN

What is your health care plan agenda and how does it affect coverage in Colorado? In addition, would it allow states like Colorado to create single-payer systems?

Background: 

Health care is a significant issue in the race and in Colorado, where lawmakers are looking to expand coverage. If the next administration fails to advance its health care agenda initiative, expect states like Colorado to continue to explore state-level programs such as a public option plan run by private insurers, an effort in the legislature that failed in 2020.

 

Supports a public option, but not Medicare for All

A: He favors a public option “like Medicare” and lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare at the federal level. Biden’s health plan includes a provision that could affect Colorado’s public option push. He says states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act -- as Colorado did -- could move the expansion population to a “premium-free public option” run by the federal government, as long as states continue to pay a share of the cost. It’s not clear whether this would help Colorado.

 

Background: 

In a bid to reduce prescription drug costs, Colorado state health officials are developing what would be one of the nation’s first drug importation programs. But the state can’t do it alone. Under a 2003 law, federal approval is required. One major hurdle that could demand the next president’s attention: Canadian officials have concerns about the idea, and could unilaterally block drug exports to the U.S. before such a program can get off the ground.

 

Consumers can buy from other counties, unclear about states

A: How he would respond to a state importation plan remains unclear; he declined to answer this question. He supports allowing consumers to buy prescription drugs from other countries, but only if federal health officials certify the drugs are safe. The certification step could hamper state-level efforts.

 

Background: 

Colorado’s first-in-the-nation experiment in legal marijuana began in 2014, and now medical marijuana legalization has spread to 33 states and recreational pot sales exist in 11. The earlier fears of a federal crackdown on Colorado’s legal marijuana market subsided somewhat after the departure of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Nonetheless, as long as the drug is illegal under federal law, legal risks remain for the industry’s present and future in Colorado. Federal legalization could reduce those barriers, but could also threaten Colorado’s industry dominance if it accelerates the competition in other states.

 

It’s unclear

A: His record on marijuana is mixed. He once called it a “gateway drug.” He retreated from his stance, and in November, he said he supports decriminalization, but not legalization. How he would handle states with legalized pot, however, is not clear.

 

Q:

CANNABIS BANKING

Would you support and sign the SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 1595) to make it easier for marijuana businesses to bank and obtain loans in states where it is legal?

Background: 

More than six years after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, a major issue remains unresolved: banking. The U.S. House passed the SAFE Banking Act in 2019 to allow marijuana businesses access to financial services like loans, lines of credit and even bank accounts. It would also shelter banks and other institutions from prosecution for handling money tied to marijuana. Marijuana advocacy groups say that absent this sort of law, the billion-dollar state business has effectively been forced to operate in cash, making it more susceptible to theft and other risks.

 

Unknown

A: Biden did not respond to this question.

 

Background: 

The Trump administration announced it would relocate the federal Bureau of Land Management headquarters to Grand Junction in July 2019, a move supported by Republican and Democratic leaders in Colorado. The Department of the Interior now says about 40 BLM employees will transfer to the new location, far fewer than initially hoped. And the move drew controversy and a congressional investigation after critics suggested the move was designed to gut the agency.

 

Unknown

A: Biden did not respond to this question, and his position is unknown. Republicans suggest the move is in jeopardy if he wins the White House.

 

Background: 

The fierce debate over who can use Colorado’s federally owned public lands -- and for what purpose -- is a constant fault line in Colorado politics. The U.S. House last year passed the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act -- a massive public lands measure that would designate roughly 100,000 acres for wilderness and recreation in the state, and remove more than 200,000 acres from oil and gas development. The measure has stalled in the GOP-led Senate.

 

No position, but he wants public lands protected

A: It’s not clear if he supports the CORE Act. Biden’s campaign website states that he would protect public lands, designating them national parks and monuments. He also said he would permanently put the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge off limits for development. It’s not clear if he supports the CORE Act.

 

Background: 

Colorado has more drilling on public lands than most states, and the effort is expanding. In 2017, the federal Bureau of Land Management wanted to limit oil and gas production on 190,000 acres in eastern Colorado, but in 2019, the BLM suggested granting protections to fewer than 2,000 acres. This has riled wildlife conservationists who want to protect habitats, including those for the sage grouse, and also those who want to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Gov. Jared Polis noted that allowing more development on federal lands would cause a 27% increase in greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas development in the state. Proponents counter that the lease proceeds can help fund national parks.

 

No new permits for drilling on public lands

A: His campaign website says he opposes new permits for drilling on public lands and waters but he did not address existing operations. But he favors using public lands and waters as locations to put operations that generate renewable energy.

 

Background: 

The use of hydraulic fracturing technology allows energy companies to drill miles-long horizontal wells and extract oil and gas deposits by fracturing shale rock. In Colorado, fracking has led to a boom in the energy industry in Colorado, which counts $30 billion in economic impact and thousands of jobs. However, the proliferation of wells and their location near Front Range communities is generating conflict.

 

Does not support ban on fracking but eventually wants to phase it out

A: His position on fracking became unclear at an earlier Democratic debate but Biden has reaffirmed that he won’t support a fracking ban. He supports reinstating methane emission regulations on the industry, but fracking is included as part of his energy plan, although he has said he wants to ban it eventually.

 

Background: 

The push toward renewable energy continues, but reaching 100% would require major changes at the regulatory and consumer level. In Colorado, just 23% of the state’s power is generated from wind, solar and hydroelectric power, with the rest coming from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. The national picture looks similar. Achieving that goal will mean financial pain for a fossil fuel industry that employs more than 30,000 workers in the state, among oil, gas and coal. But it could also mean new green jobs. Colorado’s Democratic governor set a goal to reach 100% renewable energy by 2040.

 

Wants emissions-free energy production by 2035

A: Biden proposed an ambitious $2 trillion climate plan that he says would get the U.S. to emissions-free power production by 2035. His ambitious climate plan includes a number of measures to hit these targets at the federal level, and highlights ongoing efforts here in Colorado to do the same. Biden also argues that transitioning to green energy will create new jobs.

 

Background: 

The dual pressures of climate change and population growth are expected to exacerbate the challenge of water shortages. Colorado has a state-level plan for managing river usage, but the federal government will have a role to play in mediating the competing demands of the seven states and Mexico, where residents, farmers and environmental groups have concerns about having their needs met by the Colorado River.

 

Water infrastructure upgrade needed

A: The campaign’s website does identify the challenges facing the Colorado River. How he would respond is less clear, but he said he supports efforts to ensure clean drinking water and upgrade infrastructure.

 

Background: 

The catastrophic fires that ravaged California communities for four straight years set records, putting policymakers across the West on notice: as global temperatures rise, natural disasters are expected to occur more frequently and be more destructive. States like Colorado have responded by increasing funding to fight fires and prevent them. The maintenance of power lines is another issue. The federal government is commiting more resources to the problem as well, even as the president has sparred with state leaders. But the federal government’s role could expand in unexpected ways if the trend continues.

 

Looks to climate plan, but few details

A: The campaign released a 1-minute video blasting Trump for his response to the California wildfires, and Biden cast the issue in the light of climate change, saying action was needed now. He hasn’t offered details for addressing the fire threat in particular but has suggested his climate plan would help mitigate the issue. The campaign told The Sun Biden supports building infrastructure that is more fire resistant

 

Background: 

The economic turndown caused by coronavirus hamstrung the Colorado state budget and Democratic legislative leaders are pleading for federal intervention. The state could face nearly $7 billion in lost revenues over the coming years, and the recession already forced the state to slash its budget 25%. Economists warn the current economic crisis could linger, and it will ultimately be up to federal leaders to determine how much help they want to give to states.

 

Plans are somewhat vague, but he supports giving more relief to states

A: His website says he would give states money to protect essential workers like teachers and firefighters from being laid off. His plan also calls on Congress to “provide all necessary fiscal relief to states” and create a pool of money for states to draw aid from. He also supports additional stimulus checks to jumpstart the economy, if needed.

 

Q:

UNEMPLOYMENT

How would you help those unemployed in Colorado because of the coronavirus and what protections do you support for workers?

 

Wants more aid provided by federal government

A: He proposed a plan on his website to overhaul unemployment insurance and give the federal government more responsibility for covering its costs. The plan says Biden would
“transform unemployment insurance into employment insurance for millions of workers.” He has outlined the broad parameters of a plan that echoes what congressional Democrats are pushing forward but not committed to continuation of $600 in additional unemployment payments. His campaign said he supports extending COVID crisis unemployment insurance

 

Background: 

The teacher protest movement that spread across the country starting in 2018 led to pay raises in some communities. But the profession as a whole remains in a state of crisis, with shortages so acute -- and pay so unattractive -- that some communities are recruiting teachers from foreign countries. In Colorado, many teachers work second jobs or live in travel trailers to make ends meet, and state lawmakers are focused on how to help boost the wages offered by local school boards. Federal help could be a boon in a state that has struggled to raise revenue for schools and has huge disparities from one district to the next.

 

Increase funding for some schools and work toward universal preschool

A: His education plan states he would triple funding for schools with low-income students and require districts to use the money to make educators’ pay more competitive. He also pledged to work with states to offer universal preschool education -- a top priority of Colorado’s governor -- but it’s not clear what help the federal government would provide.

 

Q:

RURAL ECONOMIES

How would your administration help struggling rural economies like those in Colorado, and what help would you provide to these communities?

Background: 

The struggles of rural America have been well documented. Nationally, small communities face shortages of critical professions like doctors, teachers and firefighters. They’re becoming older demographically, while shedding residents, businesses and jobs. Even in Colorado, which boasts one of the best state economies in the nation, a stunning 98% of new jobs in the last decade have been created along the urban Front Range, leaving wide swaths of the state behind. Recent federal assistance has come in the form of a farm bailout and tax incentives, but produced mixed results.

 

Help rural communities access federal money

A: He released a plan for rural America that includes more money for health care, agriculture research at colleges and broadband internet. He also wants to create a position to help rural communities access federal money through a strikeforce position.

 

Background: 

Paid family leave is a major issue in Colorado ahead of the November election, where a state-level measure is on the ballot. Colorado voters are considering a proposal that would give workers up to 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a new baby or adopted child, recover from an illness, or take care of a relative who is seriously ill. A handful of other states have approved similar policies.

 

Supports 12 weeks of paid leave

A: Biden in the primary said he supports providing workers 12 weeks of paid leave. He told The Washington Post he believes “the United States should guarantee 12 weeks of paid sick and family leave for workers.” He has not weighed in on Colorado’s ballot question.

 

Q:

TRADE & TARIFFS

Do you support the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement and how would your administration address the issue of trade tariffs?

Background: 

Both candidates are prioritizing domestic production on the campaign trail, a particularly salient message in rust belt battleground states that have lost manufacturing jobs to globalization. Trump campaigned on an anti-globalization message in 2016, and has delivered on many of those campaign promises.

 

Has criticized some of Trump’s tariffs

A: In December, he said he supported the USMCA because of the additional labor and environmental provisions added. But he has also criticized the way Trump uses tariffs, particularly with regard to China.

 

Background: 

The Electoral College picks U.S. presidents by awarding electors to the candidate who wins each state, rather than the one who wins the most votes nationwide. Colorado has been at the forefront of the debate in recent years, and home to the “faithless elector” movement in 2016, a case decided in the U.S. Supreme Court. Now the state’s voters will decide whether to join a national popular-vote movement in November.

 

Preserve the Electoral College

A: Biden didn’t respond to questions, but other reports show he is against the move to abolish the Electoral College.

 

Background: 

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold publicly sparred with Trump over mail voting when Trump suggested his supporters in North Carolina vote twice -- once by mail and once in person, which is illegal. Griwsold threatened to refer Trump for prosecution if double voting occurred in Colorado. The Centennial State is widely recognized as a leader in mail voting, a system it has had in place since 2013.

 

Urges people to vote by mail

A: He tweeted in August that “voting by mail is safe and secure.” Biden and Democrats have encouraged people to got to iwillvote.com, which includes information about voting by mail and connects them with state resources to request a mail ballot.

 

The Issues


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The Candidates


Click a candidate to see where they stand.


 

Joe Biden

Joe Biden

Former Vice President and U.S. Senator   

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Incumbent president and businessman